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Why is Saudi Arabia so Motivated in Settling the Sudan Crisis?

Why is Saudi Arabia so Motivated in Settling the Sudan Crisis?

15-06-2023
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10 mins Read
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Sudan is one of the most dangerous countries in the world right now. The country is located in North Africa. Sudan is the largest country on the African continent and the tenth largest in the world. Since then, Sudan has fallen into a bloody civil war as a result of cultural, religious, economic, and political divisions and disagreements.
Since gaining independence from Great Britain and Egypt on January 1, 1956, Sudan has experienced several rounds of rebellion and civil war. Political polarization has led to conflicts, including recent conflicts between tribal groups. Competition for possession of resources—fighting—has turned into military conflict and has fueled old clan conflicts.
On April 15, 2023, in the capital Khartoum, the new armed conflict started. The army chief, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, is on one side. On the other hand, the head of the RSF is former militia leader General Mohammad Hamdan Dagalo, alias Hemedti. The two generals seized power in Sudan in a coup d’état in 2021. Sudan has long had a weak democratic structure. With the fall of Omar al-Bashir’s 30-year dictatorship, the country embarked on a new path to democracy. After that, when Abdulsnah Hamduk became prime minister, the practice of democracy started again in the country. But Al Burhan and Hamidati together removed him from the prime ministership. As a result, the democratic system is disrupted.
The entire country has been thrown into turmoil by the power struggle between the commanders of these two generals, once allies of Sudan. The Sudanese army wants to dissolve the country’s paramilitary forces and incorporate them into the army. Hamedati’s power is waning. Through this, Al Burhan’s power will mature. Here is the main reason for the leadership conflict between the two: Then a new civil war started in the country. The country’s 7 million people have been pushed into a conflicting reality. In the capital Khartoum and some surrounding cities, intense fighting is going on with airstrikes, shelling, and small heavy weapons. Both sides are claiming control of the capital, Khartoum.
If the ongoing conflict in Sudan is prolonged, the security of the entire region will be destroyed. It is precisely for this reason that the African Union and the East and Horn of Africa regional alliance, IGAD, have been trying to settle since the beginning. After the fall of former President Omar al-Bashir’s regime in 2019, America’s interest in the Sudan issue increased, but Saudi Arabia has been the most active in stopping this new war in Africa.
The BBC’s Beverley Ochieng, a close observer of politics and security in East Africa and the Sahel, says Saudi Arabia’s mediation efforts are gaining more weight than any other side. It seems that both parties to the conflict in Sudan are interested in Saudi Arabia’s mediation. 
Although Sudan is an African country, the Arab countries of the Middle East are considered to be the main driving force of the country’s politics and economy, especially Saudi Arabia. Sudan is also part of the Sahel, Horn of Africa, and Red Sea regions. But a large part of Sudanese society and state, especially the Arabic-speaking Sudanese rulers and elites, have historically had close ties to the Gulf Arab states. In fact, Sudan was a major partner of the Saudi-led coalition in the Yemen war. The four countries that brokered the deal last year to hand over power in Sudan from military rule to a civilian government include Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, although none of them are from Africa.
Saadi Hamdi, a London-based Middle East political risk analyst, said Saudi Arabia and the UAE consider Sudan’s security and political reform projects to be theirs. So they don’t want this project to fail in any way. In addition, Saudi Arabia’s special activities in the Sudan conflict are mainly due to their geopolitical interests. The same applies to the UAE. Neither Saudi Arabia nor the UAE want an Islamist democratic government to be established in Sudan.
However, many observers believe that Saudi Arabia sees the conflict in Sudan as a threat to its own ambitious economic plans rather than its political or strategic interests. Because many of the economic development projects undertaken by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman without oil resources are located near the Red Sea coast, Neom City, a $500 billion state-of-the-art technology-based city, is also there. This area is not far from the Red Sea coast of Sudan. So what the Saudis absolutely do not want right now is another Syria on the Red Sea coast. The Saudis fear that if the Sudanese conflict spills over into neighboring countries, it could make it harder to attract investment to their projects on the Red Sea coast.
In addition, after the overthrow of Bashir in 2019, Saudi Arabia has the opportunity to step into Sudan, which is rich in natural resources and agriculture. Last year, they announced a $3 billion investment in Sudan’s agricultural and mineral development. The United Arab Emirates has also signed a deal to invest $6 billion to build a new port 200 miles north of the Port of Sudan.
So, Saudi Arabia’s main challenge as a mediator will be to gain the trust of both sides and convince them that a compromise will not endanger or weaken either of them. But the problem in that case is that both sides will demand that they dominate the political settlement of Sudan in the future and that the agenda of the settlement talks be according to their convenience. Above all, international consensus is now needed to overcome the two generals. No one wants another crisis-filled state to be created on earth as a threat to mankind. All important countries, including the US, China, and Russia, should stand against this war.
The author of this article is a student of Department of International Relations, University of Chittagong
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Athar Noor
The author of this article is a young researcher and political analyst
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